“Chicken 65 a typically Bangalorean dish,” restaurateurs of that city will tell you with supreme conviction, “called so because you ought to be able to cut the chicken into 65 pieces.” Hyderabadis, on the other hand, believe that Chicken 65 was born in their city.
“65 is the number of spices that used to be used in the making of this dish,” goes another theory. Rivals claim that the preparation of the marinade takes 65 days.
Yet another theory has it that in a “military canteen” (read dhaba) it was the 65th item on the menu. Still another notion is that it was created for soldiers who went to fight in the ’65 war.
I have heard it postulated that Chicken 65 comes from the Cauvery basin of Tamil Nadu, stronghold of the Chettiar community. The theory states that the Chettiars, a wealthy community of merchants who used to travel to Sri Lanka, Burma and Singapore on business, hit upon the idea of marinating a chicken with their trademark spices. Fiery red chillies, black pepper, crushed garlic, salt and lime juice were rubbed into a chicken and left to dry. The uncooked chicken could last 65 days – approximately as long as one trip took, before the days of air travel. All that had to be done was to fry the chicken, and eat it on the spot. And there is one rather far-fetched story that the originator of the preparation made use of 65 day old chickens: it would have taken a team of biologists to analyse the age of their poultry to the nearest day!
However, the real creator of Chicken 65 is a Chennai-based restaurateur named Nawaz Buhari who hailed from Sri Lanka. He was fond of experimenting with recipes and created this particular marinade in January 1965, hence the name. He also created another one in 1978 and still another in 1990 in addition to a chicken biryani that had a boiled egg added to it as a novelty. And indeed, in the year that it was first presented, the boiled egg did take the city by storm, and has had its fair share of plagiarists – as, indeed, has Chicken 65.